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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Two Dystopian Novels

One Second After provides a scenario (although flawed) of what might happen after an EMP attack on the U.S.

From Publishers Weekly:  In this entertaining apocalyptic thriller from Forstchen (We Look Like Men of War), a high-altitude nuclear bomb of uncertain origin explodes, unleashing a deadly electromagnetic pulse that instantly disables almost every electrical device in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. Airplanes, most cars, cellphones, refrigerators—all are fried as the country plunges into literal and metaphoric darkness. History professor John Matherson, who lives with his two daughters in a small North Carolina town, soon figures out what has happened. Aided by local officials, Matherson begins to deal with such long-term effects of the disaster as starvation, disease and roving gangs of barbarians. While the material sometimes threatens to veer into jingoism, and heartstrings are tugged a little too vigorously, fans of such classics as Alas, Babylon and On the Beachwill have a good time as Forstchen tackles the obvious and some not-so-obvious questions the apocalypse tends to raise.

The writing is not the best, but it is an interesting scenario.  The novel really reminded me of Alas, Babylon, and what really makes you think is the same as in many dystopian novels: how do we survive without the infrastructure we depend on?  Without easy access to food, water, and medical attention?  How atavistic would society become?  We have certainly seen some frightening examples of human behavior after natural disasters (i.e. Hurricane Katrina), and even then, there still existed an infrastructure even though damaged.

Even the government acknowledges the possibility of EMP attacks, although mainly in theory.

Science Fiction/Adventure.  528 pages.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) presents an account of the Zombie War, ten years after the fact.  Told in all seriousness with "first-hand accounts"  gathered from all over the world, each one covering an aspect from the initial crisis, through the collapse of an organized infrastructure (world wide), to the organization of resistance and resulting battles.

This is not a narrative with a single group of survivors and their experiences along the way, but a series of separate accounts from a wide variety of survivors in various locations.  The technique lends a kind of verisimilitude that is pretty amazing considering the fact that the enemy is a predatory zombie (well, thousands of predatory zombies) and that the increased numbers of the enemy are a result of your fellow man's victimization.

One reason the book feels realistic is simply that, regardless of the enemy or the cause of a collapse of the support of governments and infrastructures, people tend to respond in certain ways and the will to survive can result in a variety of behaviors.

What can I say?  It was an adventure into the fantastic that felt absolutely real.  Well, maybe not the decaying corpses of soul-less zombies, but the way different people respond to a crisis or a previously unimaginable threat--that felt authentic.

The novel (?), if you can call it a novel, rather than a series of fictional interviews, kept me involved and intrigued.  It was easy to read a section and put it down because you finished that particular account, yet  interesting enough to want to move right on to the next account.

 Science Fiction.  342 pages.


  1. I really want to read World War Z. Just haven't got to it yet...

  2. Kailana - I read it quickly. It would have been easy to put down after each interview, but it was strangely compelling.

  3. World WAr Z was on my radar for a while but I'm not so sure I would like it. I'm a bit oldfashioned, I like main narrators. It almost sounds like fictionalyized non-fiction. Sort of.

  4. Caroline - Yes...the book really does have that effect. I liked it, though, partly for that reason; the main interest for me was the realistic responses to the threat.